January 30, 2008

Excess Embryos No Argument for Access

In this land of plenty and culture of materialism, the tendency is to expect to get what we want and not wait too long to get it. Having an excess of money, for example, often doesn't make American's more generous, but helps them to get more stuff....and becomes a reason for spending more.

Though the debates over the use of embryos in research is a bit muffled by the political debates over immigration and the economy, this debate will take center stage again very soon. The point that needs to be made is that an excess of embryos in storage is not a justifiable reason for access to them for research that causes their death. This argument is put forth as a humane use of a natural resource as the research may lead to cures--inhumane to the embryo, of course.

The question used to support the use of the embryos is utilitarian in nature. "What are we going to do with them otherwise? They will be abandoned or die, we should use them for the greater good." The assertion that they ought to serve a particular purpose is implicit in the initial question, but doesn't speak to the debate over their moral status. Very simply, the argument is that since we have lots of embryos frozen in time, they should be used for research. The argument of quantity bypasses any discussion of quality, the nature of the embryo. Of course, it could be that the argument presupposes that the embryo has no moral status, but the politicians and the scientists have had little use for philosophers in this entire discussion, so it can't be argued that this has been thoroughly addressed.

An excessive amount of anything isn't a logical justification for access to it. We need to remember this as the debate is engaged in the coming months.

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